Friday, May 25, 2012


These backers all made donations to to my campaign to republish the gay adults-only novels Man Eater and Night of the Sadist in a tete beche (two-in-one) edition and I want to thank them all for their generosity and faith in a project that is not, shall we say, the kind of thing everyone would have been willing to get behind. They are: Julian Arcila, Michael Ausiello, Jami Bernard, Adam Birnbaum, Grace Carley, Jack Cheevers, Rachel Chelius, Chris Cooper, Dennis Cooper, Barbara Cramer, Sofie Day, Derek Botelho, Donna Dickman, Jill Enfield, Allie Finkel, Martha Fischer, Ken Fox, Tom Gillian, James Gracey, David Gray, Michael Prenez Isbell, Jacez, Bill Kennedy, Emily Ann Klotz, Jason Knowles, Karen Krizanovich, Kevin Lally, Robert Lang, Terrill Lee Lankford, Jennine Lanouette, Vanessa Torres Lautenbach, Scott Levine, Bruce Levinson, Frank Lovece, Mary Lugo, Don McGregor, Henry McNally, Amy Monegro, Christopher O'Neill, Timothy Paxton, Thomas D. Phillips, Pikachu, Carlos Pisco, Alex Porter, Kate Robinson, Shade Rupe, Arlene Sidaris, Steve Simels, David Singer, Kevin I. Slaughter, Gavin Smith, Raven Snook, Jack Taylor, John Walsh, Tony Whitfield, Bret Wood and Paisley Yankolovich.


The Boy Avengers, Boys Behind Bars, Chamber of Homos
The Concentration of Hans, From Steve, With Love, The Gay Haunt, Hot Asset!, The HIS 69 Artist's Sketchbook, Intensive Care, The Long Leather Cord, The Male Maulers, Man Eater, The Master of Monfortin, Murder One, The Number on the John Wall, The Pile Drivers, The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Tailpipe Trucker, Things Never Went Right…, Three Ring Sex Circus, Two, the Hard Way, The Wisteria Club

The Pile Drivers

Don Taylor
PEC/French Line, 1970
Let's start by saying that this is one relentlessly ugly little book that thoroughly lives up to the punishing implications of its title and is way nastier than the essentially meaningless cover line -- "old science practiced on a young boy" – would suggest (unless you take "young boy" to mean "child," which it doesn't). It's also bracingly graphic about the sheer messiness of certain kinds of sex, which could be spun as an earthy corrective to antiseptic porn fantasies that set up eager virgins for the same kind of rude shock that awaits mothers-to-be steeped in airy fairy babble about the exquisite beauty of childbirth.

But I don't think that's what author Don Taylor had in mind: His writing drips contempt on every level, from his characterization of protagonist Julio as a silly, mincing gold digger-turned- self-hating "nympho fag" to his decision to let a homophobic cop describe the miserable conclusion of his journey into degradation. The relentless fixation on what Dan Savage so vituperatively dubbed santorum is of a piece, as is Taylor's freak-show conflation of homosexuality, filth, deformity and perversion (sorry zoophiles, but bestiality is just nasty).

Set in some anonymous small city, The Pile Drivers opens with slim, golden-haired Julio Amherst on the brink of a great adventure. For two long years he's been working for an electronics firm, saving his cash and his ass so he can go to Acapulco and snare a rich, handsome playboy who'll support him in the manner to which he hopes to become accustomed. Julio's buddy Lorne tries to persuade him to try husband hunting closer to home: Who knows what might happen to him in (shudder) Mexico? And high-level engineer Harold Barnhart has been eyeing Julio absolutely forever; yes, he's disabled -- there's something very wrong with his twisted back -- but he's also a highly respected, self-made multi-millionaire at the age of 35. "I can't stand cripples," Julio shivers. "I can't stand the thought of their touching me."

Unfortunately for Julio, Barnhart happens to overhear that last dramatically delivered remark. Already a seething mass of resentment -- having your spine was shattered at the age of 12 after being gang-raped by bikers will do that – seeing haughty, pretty little Julio prancing around on his "faggy legs" and declaring his shallow, frivolous contempt for anyone less physically perfect sends Barnhart right over the edge. By the end of the day, he's concocted a plan to bring Julio to his knees, both literally and figuratively.
Julio quits his job that Friday, and Saturday morning he's on the curb with his suitcase, trying to hail a cab. What a fortunate coincidence that Barnhart happens to be driving by and offers him a lift to the airport… oh, it's not a coincidence. And Barnhart isn't taking him to the airport. Maced, gagged and trussed up tightly, Julio is instead taken to Barnhart's isolated weekend home, a remodeled farmhouse in the mountains whose unprepossessing exterior belies the high-tech wonders inside. Barhhart, who wants to establish his own TV franchise, has actually built his a state-of-the-art TV studio from the ground up; all he's waiting for is a UHF license. And it quickly becomes clear that he's onto an ahead-of-the-curve concept: Reality TV. Hardcore reality TV.

The house is completely wired with hidden cameras, and Julio is about to be dragged into the spotlight. Harold taunts, beats, humiliates and eventually rapes him viciously, capturing it all on video. Every aspect of the experience is excruciating for Julia, including the flashback it triggers to his brutal father's incestuous abuse the realization that it marks the end of his dream of parlaying his virgin ass into financial security. But worst part is that Julio is totally excited by being brutalized and aroused by the beast who just kidnapped and sexually assaulted him, and he hates himself for it.

The following day is no better: The long, hot shower Julio hoped would make him feel clean again doesn't and one of Barnhart's spy cams captures him pleasuring himself, which results in double punishment. First he has to do it again in the living room – Barnhart wants a better quality image – and then he's subjected to torture by the aforementioned flexible fiber-optic camera, forced to watch its painful tour of his insides in real time. And once again Julio is betrayed by his own body – the experience is as thrilling as it is painful and grotesque.

That brings us to the book's halfway mark, at which point Taylor introduces a new player: Unkempt, unwashed, unshaven hillbilly hermit Christopher Crustman, a sinewy off-the-gridder who lives in a cave with bedmates Clarissa and Jenny.... at least, they'd be his bedmates if he had a bed. As it is he keeps them penned in the yard, which is fine by them since Clarissa is a duck and Jenny is a burro. Crustman accidentally catches a glimpse of Barnhart's naked boy toy, and happy though he is with Clarissa and Jenny it occurs to him that a piece of that might be mighty nice.

Not that he thinks there's a chance in hell that Barnhart's cute little boyfriend is going to risk losing his sugar daddy…oh, but Julio isn't Barnhart's boyfriend – he's his captive. Crustman knows there are laws against that kind of thing, and by knowing Barnhart's secret he's able to effect a dramatic shift in the balance of power shifts. Now Barnhart is the helpless one, unable to stop Crustman from moving in with his menagerie and using Julio -- who has no say in the matter – in whatever way he sees fit .

And to Julio's horror, the filthy old hermit excites him too, though after Crustman is done Julio is physically ill. "Oh, God," he whispers to himself. "I'm turning into a nympho fag." With hopelessness comes a strange serenity: Julio accepts his enslavement and drifts through the days in a fog of lust and self-loathing punctuated by moments of unexpected clarity. He still finds Crustman repulsive, but sees a shining sliver of goodness in his devotion to his animals, Hand feels something like pity for the brilliant, tormented Barnhart, humbled by an ignorant, backwoods degenerate.

Julio's captors, meanwhile, are locked in a quiet but dead-serious struggle for dominance, and Crustman is winning. He cements his position forcing Barnhart to screw Jenny and taping the whole sorry spectacle. The thoroughly humiliated Barnhart tries to kill Crustman but it's Julio who actually does, albeit accidentally: He just wanted to scare the old pig, not open an artery with that shard of broken glass. But kill him he does, and then passes up the opportunity to escape while Barnhart is off burying the body. If that's not Stockholm Syndrome I don't know what is, though the term wasn't coined until three years after The Pile Drivers was published.

And now the end game comes into view: Barnhart thinks Julio's murder of Crustman is a sign of undying love, but Julio, hollowed out by the horrors he's endured, is beyond caring about anything except bringing the whole miserable situation to an end. Evincing a practical intelligence that would have surprised even him just a couple of weeks earlier, Julio carefully watches Barnhart as he tinkers with his, un equipment, and the minute Barnhart leaves to spend a day at the office Julio goes to work on the wiring, connecting the in-house video players directly to the transmitter.
When Barnhart gets home, Julio suggests they watch some sexy videos, which go out live to and create quite the stir as old folks, TV salesmen, housewives and FCC flunkies turn on their sets and get a real eyeful – who thought they'd find themselves watching a donkey show on the TV? By the time the FCC watchdogs converge on Barnhart's house, the place is crawling with police, press and paramedics, Julio – sexually mutilated beyond repair by Barnhart -- is being bundled into an ambulance and first responders are still trying to make sense of the situation: They swear they heard Julio begging Barnhart to cut him to ribbons… suffice it to say that he's as thoroughly unsexed as it's possible to be.

Granted, there's a certain thematic inevitability here, but good God Almighty, what possessed anyone to write or publish it as gay erotica? My gut is that "Don Taylor" was a straight hack who'd been around the block and banged out (just stop; I don't want to hear it) The Pile Drivers for a few hundred bucks, pouring it full of every drop of poison festering in his homophobic soul. I could be wrong, of course; if anyone knows anything about the pseudonymous Mr. Taylor (who to my knowledge never wrote another book), I'd love to hear it.

Content issues aside, The Pile Drivers ranks among my favorite vintage paperbacks on a purely tactile level, thanks to the ballpoint pen notations that drag down its resale value but connect it to someone's long-ago life in a poignantly visceral way. How much would I love to know the back story behind the two numbers scrawled on the back cover: No area codes, just Kenny at 479-0630 and Frenchie's Cab at 529-9750. Frenchie's? Really? And there's more hidden inside, at the top of page 113: No name, just a number: 449-6792. If these pages could talk, those numbers, scribbled hastily on a paperback whose wraps were clearly soft with use long before they were vintage are a vital voice that bridges space and time and a thousand other things, a smudged, inky reminder from the past that times change but people don't.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Three Ring Sex Circus

John Maggie
Trojan Classics, 1973

Talk about a carnie come on: What kind of sexual contortions could lithe, limber and exhibitionistic trapeze artists and acrobats master if they put their minds to it and how cool would it be to watch? That's Three Ring Sex Circus' spiel. What it delivers is a little less salacious, but considerably more interesting.

In 2012, running away to join the circus is as quaint an idea as riding the rails as a hobo. But in the 1973 there was still a viable travelling carnival circuit; it was on its last legs, but still the last port of call for semi-functioning junkies, freaks and down-and-outers, including girls who danced… sorry, "danced" in clandestine cooch shows where the action was way raunchier than anything you could see at the average go-go bar. Three Ring Sex Circus unfolds against the backdrop of a rapidly vanishing world whose stars were scrambling for berths in Las Vegas and on TV variety shows. As to the rest, well, they just melted into the purgatory of no hopers.

The touring Prince Royal Circus and Side Show does 200 performances in seven months, bringing a smorgasbord of animal acts, aerialists, clowns, acrobats, rides and games to small towns and cities across the US. Two multigenerational, European family acts are locked in perpetual competition for the spotlight: The German-born Vollenweiders, high-wire artists whose TV savvy has made them household names and the elegant Flying Kopkes, a troupe of trapeze artists. Twenty-two-year-old Mike is torn between them: He's a Vollenweider by blood and would never abandon his family, but he's so impressed by the artistry of the Kopkes' trapeze work that he spends every spare minute working with them. Or is he just trying to avoid dealing with his sexual identity issues? People are starting to wonder why handsome Mike doesn't have a girlfriend; the answer is that he's starting to experiment with other guys. Something's got to give and the close quarters of carnie life mean it's going to give sooner rather than later.

And then love walks in and clarifies everything: Mike has an accident in the ring, a minor mishap that could just as easily have been the dividing line between before and after. And roustabout Jerry, an rootless orphan who thrives on carnie comraderie and the hope that one day he'll get the chance to do motorcycle stunts in the ring, offer some first aid assistance, casually breaching the divide between circus royalty and the faceless peons who pitch tents, set up rides and man midway attractions.

A week later, Mike and Jerry get together to hang out, and by the end of the night it's clear that they're on their first date and it's going to end in bed, even though the sum total of Jerry's same-sex experience is a little drunken grope and tickle. And that's all it takes to make Jerry and Mike a couple, complete with post-coital dreams of a future together.
Come morning it's clear that things aren't going to be easy. Jerry's trailer mate, wily drunk Jonesy, saw them in the act and starts making vague noises that sound an awful lot like blackmail, while Mike's old-world dad and macho brother, Paul, turn up the "find a girl, it's your family duty" heat. But Mike and Jerry's next rendezvous seals the deal: Each recognizes the other as his soul mate… all they have to do is work out the details, starting with getting their own trailer. And amazingly enough, that works itself out: A fire consumes both Jerry's old trailer and the inconvenient Jonesy, a bit of serendipity that sows the seeds of poisonous doubt – Mike couldn't have torched the place, could he?

While they await delivery of their new trailer, Mike bunks with his family and solicits sex with strangers, while Jerry's temporary berth with animal wranglers Valerie and Ken Simpson turns into a kinky three-way romp. Even after Mike and Jerry's rolling love nest arrives, tensions remain: Each suspects that other has strayed and won't fess up. A three-way with the try-sexual Stan Kopke helps clear the air, but Jerry gives in to on-the road temptation one time too many, and when Mike catches him in bed with a girl it looks as though their fine romance is over.

But only a fool counts love out: Jerry gets a chance to strut his motorcycle maniac stuff in the ring and Mike comes to his senses while watching his the man he loves putting his life in the line. Jerry and Mike both acknowledge that they're going to have ups and downs, but they're in it for the long haul.

Three Ring Sex Circus (written as Three Ring Circus, the title under which appears in another Trojan book's list of upcoming novels)may well have been sold on the dual hooks of acrobatic sex and the fame of The Flying Wallendas, a German-born family troupe of aerialists who specialized in high-risk, TV-friendly stunts, like the highly-publicized wire walk across Georgia's Tallulah Gorge patriarch Karl Wallenda, then 65, did in 1970. Even if it wasn't, author Maggie's Vollenweiders are clearly the Wallendas and The Kopkes bear more than a passing resemblance to the Italian-born Togni family, aerialists who also made the transition to TV and movies in the early '70s.

No one will ever mistake Three Ring Sex Circus for great literature, but it's more considerably interesting than it has to be, both because its vivid depiction of day-to-day backstage life at the circus is startlingly vivid and because its primary concern isn't hot sex, though it delivers enough to justify the cover price. It, like the equally surprising Boys Behind Bars (1973), is about negotiating the terms of a relationship under, shall we say, trying circumstances.
So kudos to author "John Maggie" who, given the low esteem in which adults-only novels were held, could have earned his check by knocking out formulaic smutty fantasy – imagine what you could do with a guy who can touch his heels to the back of his head… But no; he delivers hotties who can't keep their hands off each other, then gives them inner lives. They're bound by family histories and social constraints, but refuse to be defined by them; they're young, impulsive and secretly insecure in all kinds of ways, but when push comes to shove, they decide to take a chance on love, conventions be damned, and commit to the work that comes after the honeymoon. That's bucking both the 'anything goes' zeitgeist of the '70s and the 'small town on wheels' culture of the circus and makes those boys cultural radicals. Yay.